Tavern Table Renovation

  • Advertise with us
Project by Smitty_Cabinetshop posted 04-10-2011 09:51 PM 6378 views 5 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Tavern Table Renovation
Tavern Table Renovation No picture No picture No picture No picture No picture
Zoom Pictures

It was twenty years ago that the tavern table (poker table, card table, pocket table) shown in the picture above was pulled out of an alley shed set for destruction. Long (early part of this) story short, the top had come apart at the glue joints and was black from the ravages of time and exposure to the elements. I pulled out the table and brought it to my dad’s nearby shop, where I cleaned and sanded the pieces of the top as best I could at the time. I glued it up and clamped it tight, then left the project for a later time. Kudos to my ever-so-patient father for moving it and saving it for the next 18 years, otherwise the story would have ended there.

Fast forward to a time two years ago. I now have a shop and my slide into hand tools has begun as the build of my Roubo workbench is underway. I need something to set the one piece oak slab of my to-be bench onto as I plane away on it with a Sandusky wooden jack. Yes, I claimed the table and used it’s base to set my bench slab on as it got worked up. The table top, over the ensuing months, became a guinea pig for every ‘new’ piece of iron that came in the mail. I practiced traversing, smoothing, jointing and scraping on that bad boy, sad to say, in no particular order. But it did get progressively smoother, and the charcoal gray wood pealed back to reveal a pretty respectable white oak surface.

This spring I needed to make room for a lumber (stuff!) buy and that meant finishing the table to get it ready for sale. Here’s a shot of the inside of the table’s aprons and legs assembly when it came apart. I did this so the legs could be jointed / cleaned up prior to final assembly and finishing.

Here are the legs before re-work.

And a close-up as to why I did what I did to the legs rather than simply stripping them and refinishing.

!The jointer was my vintage Craftsman planer/jointer, not a #7 or #8… I love hand planes, but I’m not crazy. Once the tailed apprentice was done with the heavy lifting, I did do some final smoothing. Here it is after assembly, and how I initially intended to list it for sale (final finish up to the buyer).

Then my dad told me he still had a third pocket from the table at his place, and pieces of the fourth and final pocket. About this time the table was destined for my brother-in-law and I was applying final finish myself. I made the missing pieces for the fourth pocket.

I purposely left some character to the top – this table has seen a lot of action (and neglect) in it’s day and deserves the right to retain a few battle scars. It also helps the piece retain an authentic character that can’t be reproduced. It is again seeing action as a card table!

EDIT: Corrected (DELETED) Photobucket picture links 12 July 2017.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

19 comments so far

View RWJones's profile


127 posts in 2904 days

#1 posted 04-11-2011 12:06 AM

Wow, nice work on saving this piece. My favorite photo is the one that shows the bottom, with it full character showing.

View MasterSergeant's profile


1364 posts in 2716 days

#2 posted 04-11-2011 01:46 AM

Absolutely the best story and nicest finish. Thanks for sharing.

-- Kelly, woodworker under construction

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2721 days

#3 posted 04-11-2011 01:48 AM

I am SOOOO pumped about this resto. There’s nothing cooler in the World. I’m so jealous that you had the opportunity to save this beauty.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2694 days

#4 posted 04-11-2011 04:38 AM

please explain the trays at the corners
i would like to know the purpose i realy like that look
great story and restoration
i am glad you did it



-- Kiefer

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2646 days

#5 posted 04-11-2011 04:53 AM

@kiefer and everyone else – Thanks for the feedback! About the pockets, they hang under each corner of the table so drinks aren’t in the way of the cards. And the table stays dry. Pretty good idea. These used to be common around the area years ago, less so now.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2694 days

#6 posted 04-11-2011 05:28 AM

thanks makes sence
good detail even today


-- Kiefer

View mafe's profile


11730 posts in 3117 days

#7 posted 04-11-2011 11:27 AM

That is a wonderful table you have restored and a wonderful job done.
I never vseen these drink shelfs before, and think also it’s really a cool idea.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View woodcut's profile


194 posts in 2709 days

#8 posted 04-12-2011 01:41 AM

Very cool restore! I’ve some old planks looking for a new purpose, do you mind if I copy your table? What are the dimensions? What finish did you use?

-- Carl, Iowa

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2682 days

#9 posted 04-12-2011 04:12 AM

This is a great restore.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2646 days

#10 posted 04-12-2011 04:49 AM

@mafe – Thanks! We’re very thirsty folks in this area, and we play lots of cards (Euchre) so this kind of table used to be in all the taverns. Longneck bottles are too tall for the pockets, but a mixed drink or can obviously fits fine.

@woodcut – Of course I don’t mind! I’ll measure it as soon as I can, but in the meantime I can provide specifics for another I do have. I’ll take a couple pics of that one (same thing, only with turned legs instead of square and maple vs. oak construction), take some key measurements and post everything to my blog in that it’s not really a project. Stay tuned, hopefully within the next week or so for either or maybe both.

Finish was nothing special. Minwax Early American and Minwax wipe-on poly.

It’s cool to think tavern tables might be springing up all over as a result of this post. :-)

@RG – Thanks!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8090 posts in 2356 days

#11 posted 04-19-2012 04:06 PM

resurecting your thread to tip my hat to a fellow midwesterner who plays Euchre… (let alone anyone who knows wat Euchre is)...

and for “going it alone” on your table re-build/save…

love the drink holders…. they took their cards (and beer) seriously back then. I’ll bet they were sized to perfectly fit the house steins.

I wonder if the skirts were extended to prevent passing cards :^)

And if the drink holders helped prevent “table talk” via. how you set your stein down….

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2646 days

#12 posted 04-19-2012 04:36 PM

Hello, Vet! The table can’t handle six handed or eight handed bid, of course, but for straight up game it’s great. And now that you resurrected, I see there’s a promise of measurements I haven’t fullfilled… hmmm…. I’ll get on that.

I have another of these that’s all maple, and two oposing corners were painted black, about a 6”x6” patch… The players used chalk in those squares to keep score (using the ‘wagon wheel’ method, of course). Ingenious…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View vakman's profile


301 posts in 2431 days

#13 posted 11-09-2012 03:56 PM

Excellent restoration, and for a great cause! A place to drink and shoot dice and the shit, with friends and family. I’d never seen a tavern table with the lower cup holders, it’s a great idea, which you’ve continued our knowledge of. Thanks!

-- - Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. -

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2646 days

#14 posted 11-30-2012 04:14 PM

Finally remembered to get pictures of the other table I have. Maple top, all original, with black squares painted at opposing corners so card games (Eurchre) could be scored with chalk.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View DustyInOhio's profile


46 posts in 1500 days

#15 posted 05-30-2014 12:29 AM

Great table!!! I might have to try my hand at something similar for card/ dart night in my basement. Im a huge fan of salvaging old furniture….well done.

showing 1 through 15 of 19 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics